PHILIPPE SOLLERS, H
Equus Press is proud to announce the forthcoming publication of the first English-language translation of Philippe Sollers’ groundbreaking 1973 novel, H. Inspired by the May 1968 Paris student/worker uprising, it is a text which, in its own right, performs a revolt against much that’s been (and still is) taken for granted in the belles lettres.
Described as “a music that is inscribed in language, becoming the object of its own reasoning” (Julia Kristeva) and as an “unpunctuated wall of words, [an] extremely active, if not ‘action packed’ mass of language” (David Hayman), H does away with plot, character and setting, in order to promote what Sollers himself called “an external polylogue” – an infinite fragmentation of subjectivity into a plethora of ventriloquized voices. Sollers’ unpunctuated textual flow is remarkable for its ability to accommodate a vast range of tonalities, attitudes, modes, ideologies – making, in Hayman’s words again, “farce rub elbows with pathos and banality, nostalgia and sensitivity, with evil.”
Excerpted below is the book’s opening section, which foregrounds the process whereby the author’s identity itself becomes the object/subject/body of the narrative. It addresses the biographical detail that “Philippe Sollers” is a nom de plume, playing countless variations on the author’s “real” surname Joyaux. The historical excursus on the names “Philippe” and “Octave” (the name of Sollers’ late father) – a rhythmic texture of associations combining ancient Greece/Macedonia with the contemporary (while variously punning on Joyce’s Dedalus) – followed by a provocative reworking of the name “Sollers,” aims to turn the writer’s own name and identity into a wholly written/writing persona, open to the many material coincidences and contiguities of history.
The book’s subsequent survey of literary works ranging from the Iliad to Wilhelm Meister, and its continuous punning on foundational religious texts, both Western and Eastern, draws attention to H‘s chief thematic concern throughout – the tracing of the presence of the revolutionary moment throughout history – driven by an underlying conviction that, in Kristeva’s words, “imagination is an absolute antipower.”
which says hello the machine with its lanky legs its deformed side cata bases its stiff press buttons tonic accents outside of stanza she dreamed tonight that i was throwing a ball very high and very far it’s never going to stop it lights up passing the hoops arranged meridians rounder when it traverses them and here’s the bomb that falls back all hot smoke-filled grilled so we’re in the mountains there’s powder snow look at the white violet crystals feel that air and indeed we dig our ankles into full foam for the first time the hallucination is dropwise seen from within cut stride cata cata catalysis it’s been days and days that she was pouting in her sinister corner but this morning on the way it’s the open the hollow decided is there another form no will the answer be of course not no-one and besides delirium isn’t delirium go on turn the lock the missing lock the key that doesn’t exist so it’s true we’re leaving again oui monsieur crack of the whip of the severe whistle and the huge what the radium whirlwind crossroads what else who how where to for where it really i wasn’t born to be at peace i’ve yet done all that i couldn’t to become aware of it at last this time it’ill perhaps be the good one we always think so on leaving invocation beginning desire for golden age to transform the filter to pour yourself the philtre what do you want there’s something incurable here double nod that unties the one for you but not the other negation of the self of death bloody hell i say to myself the moment’s come to take the sheath right off the members not to support the dictation by stolen decanted series after all i have this phi floating on the lips as any other infans with vultures’ tails and if the eight returns without an end when i walk if i easily think of liturgy if a sound always appeared joint to me subdue if it comes from the impossible first name at the same time my father’s latin no you won’t find i write it octave yes exactly like octavo which gave him to sign that o turning above itself followed by a tiny dot right before the j elaborate embroidered genus gladiolus bell tower g-clef carrying oyous in music o.joyous with underside the animated signature doubled restarted short diamond topped liquid octave is as well a specialized term with jewellers maybe one of the most deviant family ideas there was one of those we called buddhist alchemist shut-away at his place in draperies clearly the name itself was sufficient to excite them why because one hears jacks, joy, jewish, jouissance at a time for example these joyous sirs these joyous what would you like isn’t a pearl or then joyfus nucleus ileus gluteus or then without es but definitely not joyeus joyous with an es like saron it would never’ve spoiled real blind toy-poodles squeezed in navel so what you can’t be called joe wood of cauliflower like everyone else let’s see whether you’re up to standard tell me but it’s not bright a performance and so forth in calf soft polished style so my name in plural is philip joyous bunch of idiots no doubt once on the trash or postal checks and as to philip filioque procedit let’s not lose the track whatever succession of kings the bold the august the hideous the shithead accumulation in spain feminized island chain philippines an ambiguous gift to its owner of the adventurous magellan blue turquoise over there a suburb of manila no let’s now stay on the cash of alexander’s dad mines towns of the same name where besides brutus and cassius were beaten by antony and octave treasures subsequently allowing the expedition to asia philippei campi the plains of philippes demosthenes’ attacks coins head of apollo or bare head of zeus or even persephone with two fish reverse of the cavalier holding palm legend philippou of philip implying nomisma passport to the greek world sacred banker this macedonian 359-336 who didn’t consider a fortress impregnable if a mule loaded with gold could got in short a blithering briber as any other the beautiful dealing assassin of molay end of templars tragedy for the alighieri and sollers echo of the surname of ulysses of sollus whole intact ars ingenious terrain worker fertile lyrae sollers science of the lyre daydreaming fifteen years beach winter taking care as coincidentally gonorrhoea édifice desert running in the dunes scent of pines underneath the branches with this stalk full of pus looking at the waves so in the bible we have the same hebrew word for naked sly alert that’s how bodies communicate with the snake of intelligence be that as it may i had to disappear around this time i hear it roar whisper it’s my rhythm longua on the lagoun concrete rampart invaded by flies trouble to pass through barbwire dichtung wahreit the iliad is an open field in all directions stars motion reply 1543 of revolutionibus orbium cœlestium the dove returns with the sailors catagogy it’s called sense of reflection for the sounds the voices or story dictionary kata down below underneath in the depths of top of but also over for example in the expression darkness spreads over his eyes imposition oaths transmission crept under the edges but also inside of in the one who’s underground the dead infernal gods but also mark direction the goal within sight or rather against and with the idea of time while meanwhile or even higgledy-piggledy in safety in haste strongly by force or even according to composition in syncope we find it in the exclamation taken away by wrath well you want to get up you feel like starting again it was the time when i’d be climbing from one room line to the top of the building the ocean would stretch as far as the eye can see on the right the sun hitting the wall on the left i could only come in running as if from the landing all the way to the window the magnet was forcing me each time to leap together i had none but a disconnected circular perception of the outside i didn’t happen to know whether water had a vegetal horizon maybe the green colour was a simple reflection of a shutter the garden’s existence wasn’t guaranteed either i only felt that the wind had become slower deaf here i am anew it’s growing let’s teach the language how to sing and it’ll be ashamed of wanting anything else but what it sings is called the limit superior who but there’s another bottom limit named what the first mi is research but after the last degree another there saying mâ what have you understood pursued all’s mysterious like before you gained nothing on your slippery slope let’s go byzantium atlantis contours crushing rhythmô kai taxei when the sight is dazed and the moon is buried in darkness and the sun and the moon are joined together by gusts there will be only be a sole scream and there they will meet again on the surface and he who’ll be given his book in his right hand so he shall function but he who receives it behind his back bam zero so what go on tell us the reminder the morning ten nights even odd obscure passed brazen messengers here below tell us all about it then afterwards it’s the range of always with depth effect that’ll come that me who but who but who then scarred oh who impelled by these rough flanks a little bit moving we have interstices not exactly in the eyes not exactly pierced in the perspective or the same colour with time to take but slight progress each time from mistake to mistake all the way to the most drawn-up mistake that can be seen as victory body rocking on the coast let yourself flow it’s cradle no big deal blinking crunching or articulations acid truly progress but break a little higher or little lower more less cut from here to there chorus with age lens turns yellow the sphere becomes not sensitive waxy inside of the ears touching diluted the vision reheating abscess towards the end it must be put inside what’s outside in hard form circulation cranes pulleys fire lifts soaked window panes alternation of the sky glass facades on the tables wine and water hundred thousand today on the scene police says fifteen thousand here comes their helicopter the party gives the same figure a bit more perhaps amazement hostile closed then where that may lead the workers didn’t move around there’s nothing to do you can’t carry on friends it’s a dead end nothing can move forward this way and yet she turns red flags all over the wind sun they bang it’s getting colder blocks of flats begin to open the middle class on the balcony apparatus to the eye archivists shouts little kid who sings for an hour into his used mic and fallen onto the task defeated you sweep death off its feet bound and killed by the cowardly victories it’s you the strongest the stronger victory it’s you the strongest your sole orison friend vengeance vengeance for you for you vengeance vengeance for you the crowd comes to feebly twenty voices thirty voices a chant already archaic bad work mobilisation muddy nostalgic with ukrainian foundations completely ill-adapted to the specific situation they don’t know the piece and no more of the other couplets of the internationale friend if you fall a friend steps out of the shade and fills your place the weather’s gorgeous at the moment the first-row types are hiding under their red roses with the portraits more sombre that makes a beautiful stream underneath the blue skies with the matt silence in between the slogans silence corridor with a door open onto the night aghast from before in any event the party has made a grave political mistake leftists or haven’t you seen the number yes but without coffin that’s right nothing’s certain the whole world’s astonished but after all after all that should cut deep enough into the masses so the jig’s up just like that clear as day a petit-bourgeois funeral there you go perhaps the workers’ class is needed to maybe maybe but after all they’re there and there and nowhere else well something demands demanded will re-demand to be represented in a correct fashion what attention yes attention but after all ah there you are i’ve been waiting for you over there the word of anticommunist order but in the end shit what’s that supposed to mean all of a sudden now anticommunist that’s abstract your reflex reaction sclerosis with all the problems in the end worldly very mobile who is seeing the planet at this moment the satellites from the sirius viewpoint no the revolutionary position gives you breath and movement and cadence one’s right to attack the revisionists you hear the masses or you don’t hear them pushing digging burying themselves in every specific nook and cranny but the whole that wouldn’t be you by any chance no simply letting a little air pass across the old skin that narrates deep down you want to write it to do it and to write it rewrite the tome you see the adventure novels bring it here and fold and spread it and set the new relations into play here you are hold on to it it’s a mania of mine to quit tombs alive i can’t really do otherwise it’s later that the troubles begin i can see them grouped on the underside like bouquets on head of rootlet heads spliced on the surface toward the base their bubbles their stammering even a certain freshness that has long been awaiting me but today it’s unmediated it goes too far on the line of flight but can one throw it all out as it is in one continuous spout nobody will be able to navigate in there that’s for sure the punctuation is necessary the old punctuation is the metaphysics itself in person including the blanks the chanting all the worse it’s imperative that from now on the actors should do a little gymnastics without which we won’t ever get out of it such will always be the excuse of the locomotive of the wagons which follow the history of madam ideology proprietress of a canteen for a vast army and i well i’ll tell you of those folks on their feet in a violent situation their speech as well almost in the manner of the furies speaks in a more violent coherence we need right away without waiting for the influx the diagnose is exact it would be on the other hand absolutely false to measure oneself too narrowly with the demands of the times and from the tip of the nose no no nothing to do with the abstract position of the aristocracy above the classes it’s necessary to merely pose the problem outside of certain habits invaded by a sticky empiricism if i listened to the whole world you know that’d be straight out the window or in the seine or gas or sleeping pills the last one without any indication of any real desire to thereby finish the worn-out song about the need of love misery affective distress the blow torturing daddy and mummy all the way till after death they love that in particular to symbolically handcuff the corpse everyone goes there from their interpretive equation not so hard to find the unconscious of the others there’s nothing easier all in all you know i’ve been writing in order to create a void inside me and round me so that I can step back only it seems successful in a way that makes you at first suffer from vertigo
Translated by Veronika Stankovianska & David Vichnar. Reprinted courtesy of VLAK magazine. Image: Philippe Sollers en 1973 au moment de la parution de H.